Google employees question execs over morale, Boeing recognizes employee oversight

Plus: More on the upheaval at Paramount.

Greetings comms pros! Let’s take a look at a few news stories from the past week and see what we can learn from them.

1. Google employees grill executives about low staff morale

A few weeks ago in our Week in Comms column, we wrote about how Google shot back at employee activism in the workplace. This time, employees are having their say with the tech giant’s leaders, questioning their practices amid accusations of low company morale.

According to CNBC:

But at an all-hands meeting last week with CEO Sundar Pichai and CFO Ruth Porat, employees were more focused on why that performance isn’t translating into higher pay, and how long the company’s cost-cutting measures are going to be in place.

“We’ve noticed a significant decline in morale, increased distrust and a disconnect between leadership and the workforce,” a comment posted on an internal forum ahead of the meeting read. “How does leadership plan to address these concerns and regain the trust, morale and cohesion that have been foundational to our company’s success?”

Google is using artificial intelligence to summarize employee comments and questions for the forum.

There are a few issues of note here. First, it’s a major problem that employees feel there’s such a significant lack of trust between leaders and employees. While it’s good that Google provided employees with an opportunity to air these concerns, this isn’t the first complaint that Google employees have levied at their execs, including Pichai, and clearly, satisfactory improvements haven’t been made.

Leaders need to ensure that employee voices are heard at any company. But they won’t do much good — and they might just exacerbate morale issues — unless leaders follow through and act on that feedback. Comms can help shape executives’ response plans and ensure that they are relayed to employees in a meaningful way.

Second, that one line about AI is worth noting as well. While it might just be a way to streamline comments, it might come off as dehumanizing because it does not reflect their exact phrasing and concerns.

Let your people speak their minds, especially about their leaders. You might just learn something.

2. Boeing applauds the latest employee to come forward about the company’s lack of oversight

It’s been a rough few months at Boeing. We’ve studied their employee comms quite a bit during that time. But maybe they’ve been reading our work, because the aerospace company has changed its tone somewhat, now applauding an employee for exposing its shortcomings in the manufacturing process.

According to Business Insider:

The Boeing employee who raised an issue with the 787 Dreamliner’s quality checks to his superiors did the “right thing,” a senior executive of the company said last week.

“I wanted to personally thank and commend that teammate for doing the right thing,” Scott Stocker, who heads the 787 manufacturing program, said in an internal memo on April 29.

“It’s critical that every one of us speak up when we see something that may not look right, or that needs attention,” Stocker said in his memo, which was obtained by Business Insider.

Once again, this demonstrates one of the most essential truths of employee communications: If you want to reach your employees and earn their buy-in, you need to listen to them. While there’s undoubtedly a lot of damage that’s been done to Boeing’s reputation, owning past mistakes and acknowledging the contributions and vigilance of its employees could be a step in the right direction.

3. Following CEO ouster, Paramount might be split up if acquired

Last week, we wrote about the implications of the leadership change at Paramount on employees and how comms can navigate through it. A little over a week later, according to reports from The New York Times, potential buyers of Paramount would seek to split the company up, leading to yet more possible instability for employees.

While it’s too early to tell exactly what a purchase of Paramount would mean for employees, this is the kind of thing employee comms needs to have a plan for. Availability is the best ability for communicators, particularly during times of change. Be ready to answer questions about what you do know, have a strategy for what you don’t know yet, and be nimble and able to pivot at a moment’s notice. We haven’t seen the end of this saga yet, and it’ll be interesting to watch what happens next at Paramount.

4. How about some good news?

Have a great weekend comms all-stars!

Sean Devlin is an editor at Ragan Communications. In his spare time he enjoys Philly sports, a good pint and ’90s trivia night.

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